Wednesday, February 11

Day 167-Katoomba

Sometimes things just fall in place. Way back in Darwin I had decided to skip the Outback extension from Alice Springs to Adelaide, in favor of a quick flight to Sydney. That turned out to be a great decision, as residents of that town are suffering from the worst fires in history, with thousands of homes destroyed and hundreds dead. In addition, Sydney has turned out to be yet another in a long line of world's greatest cities, but I will write more about it in a future post.

Leaving Sydney this morning required that I negotiate its rather complex and complete railway system, but once done, I was merrily rolling up the tracks to the Central Highlands of New South Wales. Here are found many of the Unesco listed National Parks, among them Blue Mountain, which gets its name from the blue haze that hangs over the hills, a by-product of the millions of eucalypt trees that carpet the hills. I arrived to find this rain forest completely shrouded in mist, and the prospect of hiking along the rim of the 200 meter high sandstone escarpment was, for lack of view, not too promising. Instead I wandered town, found a great deal on some new shoes, as well as some other necessary gear, then walked over to the Imax theatre to view "The Edge", a documentary about this park.

I learned that Australia is very unique on this planet, not only for its extreme climate, but also for its geologic age. The surrounding hills had already been shaped while the Grand Canyon was just a gleam in God's eye. The geology has been stable for 100 million years, and this leads to a very sterile soil, which along with eons of physical separation from the other continents, creates a diversity of plant and animal life unrivaled on all the planet. Knowing this, I was not able to sit still any longer, and headed to the end of town to access the park. Minutes after my arrival at the first overlook, the skies opened to reveal the majestic view of the distant hills, the escarpment, and the rollling valley below. Walking the 5 km along the rim was a sensory paradise, every green thing dripping fresh rain from its odd shaped leaves, the air rich with the scent of new oxygen, wet earth, and most notably, eucalyptus oil! Powerful medicine for the nasally challenged, and in my free-breathing euphoria I was grateful for every step that had lead me to this place.

Now about them shoes. Today is Feb 11th. My original plan had me flying into Salt Lake City on this date. Clearly that is not going to happen, and in celebration of my exceeding my own expectations, I decided to replace my well-worn Merrills. I reckon I have a few more tracks to make before this journey is over.

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